by Mario "Game" Granata
A lot has been made about the Buffalo Bills off-season moves, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but what does that mean for the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft? With the Bills' 6th round pick going to Tampa Bay, they currently have one less to play with. However, if you take a look at the moves that they have made, and transitioning from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense, they are moving players around like a chess board.
If you have read some of the articles already here on Hashtag Sports, you can see how Doug Whaley has been dubbed by me as the 'Architect' who has begun to try and copy what he has seen as a championship formula for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the decade of the 2000s. With the transition of a very attacking 3-4, Mike Pettine defense to a less aggressive 4-3 defense by Jim Schwartz, there have been some moves that the Bills have had to make with the current roster to accommodate. Here are a few points to keep in mind before tuning into the NFL Draft on May 8th:
Addition of Brandon Spikes: When you cut down your number of linebackers that occupy the space behind the defensive tackles, the one Middle Linebacker that has to command the defense has to be very talented. When you look at a 3-4 defense, the nose tackle has to be able to take on two blockers and sets the tone for the defense, at least in the middle. When you switch to a 4-3, the middle linebacker has to be responsible for 2 gaps (to the right and left of the center) and with the troubles that the Bills have had against the run, Spikes is a key addition. (Also with the one year contract, Spikes will be performing like his job is on the line.)
Kiko to the Outside: With the addition of Spikes, and with implementing a 4-3, this leaves a void that has to be filled on the outside. Kiko Alonso had some trouble getting off blocks in the later part of the year for the Buffalo Bills, although was able to rack up 159 tackles in an impressive rookie campaign. By moving Kiko to the weak side linebacker, he can better use his athleticism to make plays, and be a more effective player for the Bills.
Hands Down, Manny: Manny Lawson, with the addition of Keith Rivers, also a first round pick, will probably be asked to move to the defensive end position for the Bills across from Mario Williams: a position he played with Williams at NC State. And with the attention that was paid to Williams, Lawson was elevated to a 1st round draft status, because he wasn't double teamed as much, and was able to make plays, and with his pure athleticism, can be a difference maker for the Bills across from Williams.
Same Old Schwartz: Jim Schwartz, although stated that he wants the Bills to be more aggressive, wants to be able to generate pressure with the front 7 of the Bills, and just looking at the Bills on paper, the front four will probably consist of Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus, and Manny Lawson as the front four, and Keith Rivers, Brandon Spikes and Kiko Alonso as the linebacker core. Dareus, Rivers, Mario Williams, and Lawson are all former first round picks for a reason, and if they can gel, and generate pressure by not blitzing, that will allow the other linebackers and the secondary to be play makers.
Looking at the current defensive players for the Buffalo Bills, there is the potential there to make some noise in the AFC East, and give the Bills fans something that they haven't had in a long time...a playoff appearance.